Sitting at 22-2, the Baylor Bears have ambitions to win a National Championship. Coming into the 2020-21 season Baylor was projected as a title favorite this season. The Bears have not disappointed at all. They have won their first conference title in over 70 years and are hungry for more. With one of the top offenses in the country, Baylor is led by possibly the best backcourt in college basketball. Can Baylor win it all and spoil Gonzaga’s undefeated season?
The Bears’ offense is among elite company in college basketball ranking third in efficiency. Also, they are third averaging 84.4 points per contest while shooting 49.3%. Typically, Baylor wins in dominating fashion with an average margin of +18, which is also third in the country. Perhaps, the Bears’ best trait is their three-point shooting. They are first in the land shooting at a clip of 41.8% from beyond the three point arc.
If Baylor was not hard enough to stop already, they are a great offensive rebounding team. To clarify, the Bears corral 11.3 offensive boards per game and are fifth with an offensive rebounding percentage of 36%. As a result, the Bears become virtually unstoppable. They shoot the three ball well, score plenty of points and on top of this they get second chance points. Giving up offensive rebounds to a great offensive team can be a killer.
Guards Lead the Charge
Furthermore, no backcourt in college basketball may trump Baylor’s. The Bears have three starting guards averaging over 14 points while shooting over 48%. In addition, they are good defensively they are not just offensive weapons.
First off, Jared Butler is Baylor’s lead guard averaging 17.1 points, 4.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds. Also, Butler shoots 48.8% and 42.9% from three. Butler has seven games this season in which he scored 20+ points. The 6-foot-3 guard is on the Wooden award watch, was AP’s Big 12 Player of the Year and was named as a First-Team All-American.
🚨 AP First-Team All-Americans 🚨
Corey Kispert, Gonzaga
Jared Butler, Baylor
Luka Garza, Iowa
Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State pic.twitter.com/t75JfyA9HI
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 16, 2021
Davion Mitchell is another starting Baylor guard. Mitchell averages 14.1 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 51.5% and 46.2% from three. Further, Mitchell has five games this season in which he scored 20+ points.
Additionally, MaCio Teague is another scoring Baylor guard averaging 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and shoots 48.6% and 39.2% from three. While Teague does not have as many 20 point games as Butler and Mitchell, he has been on fire recently. His career high came on 3/7 against a good defensive team Texas Tech. Teague lit Texas Tech up with 35 points while shooting 68.8% and was a ridiculous 10/12 from three. In Teague’s last four games, he is averaging 23.8 points shooting 58.3% and 58.6% from beyond the three point arc.
Baylor and good defense is rarely mentioned in the same sentence. However, the Bears do have a great defense. They excel in forcing turnovers averaging nine steals per game. Baylor’s steals per game is ninth in the country. Four Baylor Bears average one or more steals per game. Butler averages two steals, Mitchell averages two steals, Matthew Mayer gets 1.1 steals and Mark Vital snatches 1.2 steals per contest.
In result, Baylor is sixth in the country forcing 17.3 turnovers per game. Consistently winning the turnover battle is good enough defense. Especially when considering Baylor averages 84.4 points per game. Mitchell is also one of the elite defenders in the Big 12 conference. By no means does Baylor have a bad or ok defense, their defense is good.
Baylor is the one seed of the South region. Teams like North Carolina, Purdue, Arkansas and Ohio State are the challengers for a Final Four birth. Ohio State looks to be the biggest threat due to their offensive chops. Like Baylor, Ohio State has several talented guards that can score at a high clip. However, Ohio State also has good forwards in E.J. Liddell and Kyle Young. If Liddell and Young are consistently used on the block, the pace could be slowed down a lot limiting Baylor’s chances. Also, Ohio State takes care of the ball and rarely turns it over.
However, Baylor would still be the favorite over Ohio State. The obvious team Baylor might have to go through for a national title is Gonzaga. Gonzaga is going for the first undefeated season since Indiana did it in the 1970s. Gonzaga is the heavy national title favorite, but Baylor has the talent to beat them. Baylor only needs one fantastic team performance against Gonzaga, then they can be crowned champs.
All stats courtesy of ESPN, Kenpom, NCAA and Team Rankings.